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What do I love about Portugal?

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What do I love about Portugal?

By Nelson Carvalheiro

“What do I love about Portugal?” is a question that I get asked over and over again, and to which I give a different answer over and over again. As a Travel and Food Blogger, who spends his time visiting foreign countries, tasting all kinds of different cuisine and listening to people saying what makes their own country the greatest, I need to be very creative when it is my turn to say what I love about Portugal.  What I have written bellow is the answer I gave, when asked this very question at a recent Travel conference. 

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So, I was asked to speak about “What do I love about Portugal ?” …Well…This is what I could come up with…

I love to dream that I was once a great Portuguese Discover and that the whole world was under my command, to think that my sail ship is still outside waiting for me, to know that Portugal is not Spain neither a province of Spain, to wake up to 300 days of bright sunlight and think that I will have an espresso and a Nata for breakfast, to come out of bed and put my comfy slippers on (the ones that my grandmother handmade for me), to come to the window and say hello to the baker who has just delivered a bag fresh bread to the neighbour, to play some Amália on the radio and sing out loud “É uma casa Portuguesa com certeza”, to look at an Azulejo panel and think that Fernão Mendes Pinto was the first European to make contact with the Japan, to read a poem of Pessoa and think that “normal” is such an overrated word, to walk down the wooden stairs of a XVIII century building in Lisbon knowing that once upon a time Marquis and Dukes made the same journey every morning, to admire the unique patterns of the Portuguese Calçada boardwalks, to meet the old-timers for a quick Ginginha, to read the football newspaper and argue with the old-timers over a couple more Ginginhas, to think which fish am I going to eat for lunch, to discard that thought and recon that I will have Bacalhau instead, to walk the streets of Alfama and realizing that this is where real Lisboners live, to think that it was the Portuguese who introduced chillies to India, thus enabling the Indians to invent curry, to look at the red corrugated roof tops of the inland Portuguese villages and think that they resemble the waves the Atlantic Ocean, to know that half of the Europeans wears shoes made in Portugal,  to say hello to the Mayor and tell him that the needs to fix the leaking fire hydrant in my street, to know that the Portuguese are known for being able to resolve any complicated situation using the simplest and cheapest of methods possible, to hear the sounds of the bell tools and the screeching yellow trams, to kiss the sunshine of the southern planes every time I drink red wine of the Alentejo, to know that we are the only country in the world that catches bulls by their face and by their horns, to remind myself how cheap and cheerful Green Wine (Vinho Verde) really is, to explain to a Englishman that it was a Portuguese Queen by the name of Catherine of Braganza that introduced the noble art of tea drinking to the British, to know that Portugal has more seashore then inland borders with Spain, to go for dinner at a Tasca and have a seafood dinner with wine for under 10 Euros, to speak Insha’Allah as did the Moorish or to use Latin just to make my case stronger, that onion, garlic and olive oil are present in almost every Portuguese dish, to cry when I hear the melancholic tunes of late night Fado and think that there is no translation for the word “Saudade”,   to open a bottle of the finest Irish or Scottish whiskeys and knowing that the cork on the cap is Portuguese, to know that in the summer I can eat street  in charcoal every day, to go to bed knowing that I can do all this tomorrow again…And again…

Source: nelsoncarvalheiro.com

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Insider's Guide to Lisbon

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Insider's Guide to Lisbon

Palacio Fronteira Pedro Guimarães

Palacio Fronteira Pedro Guimarães

This city is often overlooked as a destination, considered an also-ran to Paris, Rome and other European capitals, with their iconic attractions and masses of tourists. But there's something to be said for Lisbon's subtler charms.

Lilac-hued jacaranda blossoms carpeting the stone benches in Largo do Carmo Square, for instance. Or melancholic fado music wafting from cafes in the twisting streets of Alfama. Or the perfume of sea spray along the waterfront in Belém, close to where the Rio Tejo joins the Atlantic Ocean.

Lisbon peaked as a global powerhouse in the 15th and 16th centuries, when Portuguese explorers sailed from its shores, returning with treasures from India and the coast of Africa. A devastating earthquake and tsunami in the 1700s humbled the city. The current economic crisis has put Portugal in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. An upside of centuries out of the spotlight is that Lisbon's gems weren't razed in the name of progress.

There are also advantages to the capital's lack of notoriety on the cultural front. Visitors can enjoy Lisbon's museums—the trendy (the Museu Coleção Berardo and the Museu do Design e da Moda) and the traditional (the fado and tile museums)—without crowds.

Yet the city isn't stuck in the past. Santiago Calatrava designed the futuristic Oriente metro station in Parque das Nacões. The new Beautique Hotels Figueira were created by acclaimed Portuguese designer Nini Andrade e Silva. And British architect Amanda Levete is creating a spaceshiplike EDP Foundation Arts and Technology Centre in Belém.

Back home, regale your friends with your discoveries. Better yet, don't.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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As 40 fotos de Lisboa para ser feliz

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As 40 fotos de Lisboa para ser feliz

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A edição espanhola da prestigiada revista de viagens Condé Nast Traveler acaba de apresentar ao mundo aquelas que considera serem as mais bonitas fotografias de Lisboa.

As imagens "para sermos felizes" foram, todas elas, captadas por turistas e partilhadas na aplicação móvel Instagram.

"Lisboa sabe a mar, a cultura, a bacalhau e a bons vinhos", introduz Almudena Martín, autora do artigo publicado na Condé Nast, que acrescenta que a cidade, berço do Fado, "é fascinante" com os seus "bairros pitorescos, ruas íngremes, miradouros dignos de um filme e eléctricos históricos".

A publicação propôs-se, no entanto, ir mais longe, e descobriu 40 "recantos" de toda a região de Lisboa destinados a convencer os leitores a fazer imediatamente as malas e a rumar a Portugal para umas férias.

O conjunto de fotografias compiladas pela revista e acompanhadas do nome de utilizador dos seus autores é muito diverso, mas não faltam registos de ícones da capital, como a Sé de Lisboa, a Torre de Belém, o Elevador de Santa Justa, o Castelo de São Jorge, o Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, o Cristo Rei ou a Ponte 25 de Abril.

Entre as imagens escolhidas há também espaço para a gastronomia, com uma das fotografias a retratar um prato de bacalhau à Brás e uma outra a dar destaque aos incontornáveis pastéis de nata, símbolo maior dos sabores tradicionais lisboetas.

O típico bairro de Alfama parece ser um dos preferidos dos turistas, aparecendo em várias fotografias publicadas, à semelhança de locais que não podem faltar em qualquer guia, como o Rossio, a Rua Augusta ou o Parque das Nações, com a sua moderna Estação do Oriente.

Destaque ainda para o facto de a Condé Nast não esquecer as imediações de Lisboa, em particular as praias de Cascais ou do Estoril, muito apreciadas pelos viajantes, e os encantos de Sintra, representados na lista pelo Palácio da Pena. 

Veja aqui as 40 fotos >>>

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Lisbon: top of your Euro-bucket list

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Lisbon: top of your Euro-bucket list

With it’s sexy slow-paced rhythm, winding white-and-black tiled streets, gentle sea breezes, and unbelievably sunny afternoons, how could a girl not fall in love?!

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I went to Portugal with no expectations. Of course I assumed I would like it, but I hadn’t done much research so I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d find.

To summarize: Lisbon is a laid-back city with an extremely rich history, it has great food for very low prices, world-renown hostels, and a strong music culture. 

I kept finding myself comparing it to Madrid (where I’ve been living for the past 6th months), and I found it to be cheaper, have better food, and to be a much more beautiful city in general. I might be biased since I love cities that are close to water, but there was something so charming about Lisbon.

Also, nearly everyone I met spoke or understood English, much more-so than in Madrid or Paris. It’s always a good idea to learn a few basic sentences to be polite, but don’t think for a second that you’ll have a difficult time in Portugal if you don’t speak Portuguese!

WHAT TO DO

FREE WALKING TOUR

I highly recommend starting off your stay in Lisbon with a free walking tour from Wild Walkers. It’s about 2 hours long, so bring your walking shoes and a camera because there will be tons of great photo ops. Lucky for you, Lisbon is a very photogenic city!

The tour guide was probably the best I’ve ever had due to his honest, quirky & interesting presentation of Lisbon. He was so good that we decided to also take his fado Tour…

The tours are offered every day, and assuming you enjoy it, it is customary to pay a small donation/tip at the end.

FADO TOUR

If you do a Google search on Portugal, the musical genre of fado is sure to come up.

Fado generally has a melancholic tone, and was traditionally sung by the poor & the outlaws to express their sorrows, but it has experienced a resurgence in recent years. I don’t want to give away too many details about the history of it, because it’s much more fun to learn from the local tour guide, but I can promise that it is fascinating.

Of course you could find an expensive touristy dinner & fado show package on your own, or even dig up a few free fado bars to check out, but chances are you won’t know what you’re listening to, you won’t understand the lyrics, and you’ll end up with a very superficial appreciation for the music.

The fado tour from Wild Walkers costs 15 euros & includes: a local guide who is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about fado & its history, free local ginjinha cherry liquor in a traditional chocolate cup, tapas & wine at a fado restaurant during the show, translations from the guide and discussions about the meaning of each song, plus a behind-the-scenes tour of the restaurant. We even got to meet and talk with the performers!

I was so thrilled by this tour, I would do it again in a heartbeat. To be honest, I looked up a fado video on Youtube before my trip, and wasn’t blown away. This tour completely changed my perception of the music, and was the most memorable part of my time in Lisbon.

As you might know, I obsessively seek out live music when I’m travelling, but I truly believe this is an activity that everyone would enjoy.

The fado tours are not offered every day, so contact the company beforehand to find out when they are.

PEOPLE WATCH IN PRAÇA DO COMÉRCIO

People watching is a great activity that can be done in any cafe or plaza anywhere in the world. But doing it in Praça do Comércio, despite its popularity with the tourists, is definitely worthy of a few hours in your schedule.

I recommend going in the mid-afternoon to soak up the last of the sun and relax with a cup of coffee or wine. Make sure to grab a seat at one of the restaurants on the left, then turning your chair outward to face the center of the square.

The food served at the restaurants here is good but definitely on the pricey side, so it’s best to plan on just having a drink and grabbing lunch/dinner elsewhere.

BUDGET SAVING TIP: If you’re trying to save money, grab some snacks from a market and head across the street from the Praça do Comércio. You can sit right by the water for as long as you want, & take in the river and the plaza at the same time. You might even catch some free live music…

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CATCH A SUNSET FROM ZAMBEZE ROOFTOP RESTAURANT

You’ll be taken to the ZamBeZe rooftop during the day on the free walking tour for the great views of the city, but it’s definitely worth going back in the evening to catch a sunset.

If you’re on a budget, you can order just a glass of water or wine while taking in the scenery. I even saw some people sitting on the edge of the rooftop who did not appear to be paying customers, so you could make this a free activity.

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EXPERIENCE LISBON NIGHTLIFE

Lisbon is known around Europe for its amazing nightlife. Having spent the past 6 months in Madrid where the nightlife doesn’t end until 9am (or later), I wasn’t totally blown away by the nightlife, but found it to be pretty on-par with Madrid.Americans read: you will most likely be blown away. 

If you’re staying at Home Lisbon Hostel, and  feeling like a big night out, just hop on the Pub Crawl that stops by the hostel every night.

The best neighborhood for a mix of eclectic bars with something for everyone is the Bairro Alto area that I mentioned earlier. The bars here close at 2 or 3am, so if you’re in the mood to dance or keep drinking, you’ll probably want to head to a club.

There are no clubs in Bairro Alto, but a local recommended Lux Club for a good time. There’s also a popular club called Lust in the Praça do Comércio.

TAKE A DAY TRIP TO SINTRA

Sintra is sometimes described as “the most romantic place on Earth“, and I couldn’t agree more. There is so much to do and see that I would recommend not trying to fit it all into one afternoon; it’s best to spend an entire day there.

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Source: www.fleetinglife.com

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31 REASONS TO LIVE IN LISBON

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31 REASONS TO LIVE IN LISBON

1. It basks in Europe's greatest climate

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More sunshine than Madrid, Rome or Athens — yet while they all sweat through the Mediterranean summer, there's usually a breeze blowing off the Atlantic to give Lisbon natural air-conditioning.

2. Cervejaria Ramiro is so, so, so good

Lisbon is full of great places to eat super-fresh seafood.

3. The beach is 20 minutes from downtown

The soft sandy beaches of Oeiras and Cascais are a short hop along a coast-hugging suburban rail line. There are countless other choices too. In less than an hour's drive you can plunge into bracing surf at Guincho, or chill in a sheltered bay fringed with white sand beneath the green hills of Arrabida.

4. Tram 28 exists and makes everyone happy

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Every tourist knows about the little yellow street cars that ply this line, but the five-mile ride is still the coolest (and cheapest) way to see the city. The trams rattle through a succession of historic neighborhoods carrying locals and sightseers squeezed in sardine-style, while cheeky urchins cling perilously to the running boards for a free ride.

5. It's got a river that feels like the sea

The Tagus at its widest is over 10 miles across, forming western Europe's largest estuary. It's a haven for wildlife — including pink flamingos that flock to the far bank. The river water's reflected sunshine gives "the white city" its unique milky light.

6. It is mainland Europe's closest capital to Africa and Latin America — in all sorts of ways

It's not just the weather. Lisbon's public gardens are filled with lush tropical foliage. Countless Lisboetas have roots in Brazil or Portuguese-speaking Africa. There are bars playings bossa nova and serving caipirinhas; nightclubs where you can sway all night to the rhythms of Cape Verdean coladeiras or Angolan kizomba; restaurants dishing up Brazilian feijoada or the sophisticated, coconut-infused cuisine of Mozambique.

7. Rome can't match the views from Lisbon's seven hills

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Like the Italian capital, Lisbon is supposed to have been built on seven hills. Almost every one offers a fabulous view, from across the rooftops of the old city to the shimmering waters of the Tagus beyond. For the full panoramic experience head for the terrace bars at the view points of Portas do Sol, Sao Pedro de Alcantara, Graça or Santa Catarina.

8. The LX Factory has brought life back to a forgotten corner of the city

Take a rundown industrial site, fill the factories and warehouses with funky stores, restaurants and galleries, bring life to a forgotten corner of the city.

9. Getting lost here is a delight

Lisbon is reckoned to be Europe's second oldest capital (after Athens). It was ruled by Romans, Germans and Arabs before Portuguese crusaders conquered it in 1147. Wandering aimlessly through the souk-like streets of ancient neighborhoods like Alfama, Mouraria, Bica or Madragoa is one of the city's greatest pleasures.

10. Football is a religion

Some cities are divided by language, faith or politics. Lisbon is split down the middle by citizens' unbreakable devotion to either the eagles of red-shirted Benfica, or Sporting's lions in green. Few sports events unleash more passion than a game between them.

11. The coffee is better here than there

In its empire building days, Portugal managed to colonize Brazil, Angola and East Timor — producers of some of the world's finest coffee. Lisbon today runs on superpowered espresso served in tiny shots known as bicas.

12. There's loads of culture

You can overdose on the arts — from the gilded interior of the Sao Carlos opera house, to the fabulous art in the Gulbenkian Museum and Berardo Collection, to endless open-air music festivals through the summer.

13. You can drink ginjinha in gardens all over the city

Portugal is famed for Port wine, but Lisbon's favorite sweet tipple is this rich, red cherry liqueur. Best sipped at one of the old hole-in-the-wall bars around Rossio square or the many kiosk terraces in gardens and squares around the city.

14. They don't kill the bull

Unlike in Spain, the bulls walk away from a Portuguese corrida de touros. Instead, they are poked and prodded by a spear-wielding horseman (or woman) dressed in aristocratic 18th-Century garb before being wrestled to a standstill by a team of seemingly suicidal commoners. Lisbon's Campo Pequeno bullring is a neo-Moorish architectural oddity.

15. You can chill in cool modernist neighborhoods

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A few metro stops from the old city's mazes of medieval streets, the broad modernist avenues of Alvalade are lined with cool stores and tempting sidewalk cafes.

16. You can eat really, really well for practically nothing

Despite recent sales tax hikes, it's easy to eat a hearty traditional meal (let's say duck baked with rice, eggs scrambled with salt-cod and olives, or grilled fresh sardines) for about $7 in neighborhood eateries known as tascas. Food is taken very seriously here and even fancy restaurants are much cheaper than in most European capitals.

17. Lisbon's version of the blues is on the world's protected heritage list

Fado songs should form the soundtrack of any trip to Lisbon. The bluesy, guitar-backed laments can be an acquired taste, but a new generation of singers like Ana Moura, Gisela Joao or Cristina Branco are making fado sexy, accessible and successful.

18. It has what might be the greatest aquarium in the world

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The Oceanario is Lisbon's biggest attraction. An aquarium like no other, its 180,000 cubic feet main tank holds more than 100 species of big fish, including tuna, rays and sharks. Located in the ultra-modern Parque das Nacoes district, the landmark building's myriad displays also include penguins living in a re-created Antarctic icescape, sea turtles gliding through the water and darkened tanks lit by fluorescent jellyfish.

19. Even the cakes are historic

Pasteis de nata are Lisbon's greatest gift to confectionary. The Antiga Confeitaria de Belem has been selling the little custard-filled tarts since 1837, but if you want to avoid the queues, aficionados say the nearby Chique de Belem cafe does them even better.

20. The houses have more colors than a box of Legos

Lisbon's "white city" nickname is something of a misnomer. Houses and apartment blocks come brightly painted in yellow, pink, sky blue and just about every shade in between.

21. Johnny Depp speaks English here

Unlike in most European countries, Portuguese theaters play movies in their original language, with subtitles. Monoglot anglophones can happily catch up on the latest Hollywood releases, or enjoy an art house classic at the Cinemateca — preferably combined with a drink in its rooftop bar.

22. Shopping can take you back in time

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While much of Europe has succumbed to out-of-town megastores, Lisbon is filled with specialist shops where a friendly face will be waiting behind a wooden counter to help you find dried Algarve figs, bathroom appliances, coat buttons, vintage port or whatever it is you're searching for.

23. It smells really good (except sometimes when it smells bad)

A favorite song here claims "it smells good, it smells of Lisbon." If you're lucky, you'll catch whiffs of orange blossom, freshly hung laundry or cinnamon sprinkled on cakes hot from the oven. You might also be confronted by salt cod on the grill, blocked drains or trash piled up on strike days. All part of the olfactory experience.

24. There are great bars everywhere

Pensao Amor is an erotically charged former bordello; the Pavilhao Chines resembles a giant Edwardian curiosity cabinet; Botequim da Graça is an intimate intellectual hangout; Povo showcases up-and-coming fado stars. In a city that lives late into the night, there are bars on the roof of car parks, in gardens and museums; quayside nightclubs where you can dance until dawn breaks over the Tagus; whole neighborhoods of bars in Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodre.

25. The Chiado is like the legend of the phoenix

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Devastated by a 1988 fire, this grand old district of Belle Époque stores, theaters and literary cafes rose from the ashes as the restored heart of the city. You can spend your days browsing the world's oldest bookshop (Livraria Bertrand, est. 1732) and drinking bicas at the counter of the Brasileira cafe founded in 1905.

26. Where else (outside of Goa) can you sample wonderful Goan food?

Portugal's former colony on the west coast of India makes some of south Asia's finest cuisine. Can't get to Goa? Lisbon's Goan restaurants like Jesus e Goes and Cantinho de Paz serve sublime shrimp curry, kid with roasted coconut or crab-stuffed samosas.

27. There's a fairy-tale fortress up in the hills

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Commuter trains take less than 40 minutes to climb to the magical hill town of Sintra. A plethora of palaces were erected there amid the thick woodland so Lisbon's aristocracy could escape the city heat. Looming above them all is the Palacio da Pena, a romantic bolthole built by a German prince who married into Portugal's royal family. The whole place is a UNESCO heritage site.

28. Neighborhood markets are a feast for foodies

Fancy tripe, baby squid, or a plate of freshly picked loquats? Lisbon's neighborhood markets will have them all (in season). The best known is the 132-year-old Mercado da Ribeira, poised for a major facelift.

29. It's full of leafy havens

From tree-shaded public gardens where aging card sharks while away endless afternoons to the 2,500 acre Monsanto in the western suburbs, Lisbon is full of green getaways. A favorite is Jardim do Principe Real a verdant oasis surrounded by chic shops and bars.

30. They've got fabulous gelato

Attilio Santini moved from Italy in 1949. His family still serves world beating ice-cream from their stores in the Chiado and in the western beach suburbs. There's usually a line, but with flavors ranging from baked apple to Azores pineapple, the gelato is always worth the wait.

31. You can get a shoe-shine for less than $3

Shoe-shiners may have disappeared from much of Europe, but professionals armed with brushes, rags and pots of polish are stationed around downtown to give new life to your footwear — and fill you in on the latest gossip. Some operate inside cafes, like the splendid 1940s Pastelaria Mexicana, so you can get a shine while enjoying your morning coffee.

Source: Global post

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Falling in love, and longing, in Lisbon

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Falling in love, and longing, in Lisbon

The tram twists and turns up and down the hills of Lisbon. Views open up in all directions — the Tagus River sparkling below, the tumbledown facades of once-grand townhouses, laundry-laden balconies and wrinkle-faced women gazing wistfully out their windows.

My Angolan-Portuguese husband is snapping photos. I have my headphones on, tuning out the forgettable narration and tuning in when a fado comes on. The melancholy trademark music of Portugal helps me in my quest, propels me toward an understanding of what I’ve come here to seek.

We are on tram 28, a rickety vintage car that has been winding its way through Lisbon’s streets since 1928. Only, this isn’t the real deal; it’s an ersatz version that travels a slightly more scenic route and comes complete with an audio guide, so that tourists can understand the sights they’re passing.

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The starting point is Praça do Comércio, an expansive waterfront square on the Tagus, also known as Terreiro do Paço. Recently restored, it now showcases sidewalk cafes, restaurants and museums and, on sunny days, crowds of camera-toting visitors and a few Lisboetas passing through.

Then it’s off to the hills of Lisbon, with their aging beauty concealed in the steep maze of alleyways, and back to the mosaic-paved streets and neoclassical architecture of Pombaline Baixa, the city’s elegant downtown district, built in the 18th century after the devastating 1755 earthquake.

I stopped counting my visits to Lisbon years ago; there were too many to keep track of. It’s become one of “my” cities. For my husband, who spent 14 years in Portugal, it’s a second home. So what are we doing on a tourist tram?

I’ve come on a curious mission: to find a key to a sentiment that’s been haunting me since I discovered the country in 2005. That first time I laid eyes on Lisbon, I felt a peculiar kind of wistfulness. I’d never before set foot in Portugal, so there was nothing to be wistful about. But the feeling was present, it was potent, and I found it quite odd. En route from the airport, I remember seeing shabby porticos, a palm tree here and there poking out of spaces between abandoned buildings.

On that first trip, I came with a boyfriend. As we explored Lisbon, we fought. A lot. Instead of setting out to unlock the secrets of this striking city, I spent almost the entire trip feeling sad. Yet the sadness was tinged with strangely sweet undertones.

A couple of months after our return to New York, that relationship ended. Our parting had nothing to do with Portugal itself. But the end of that romance meant a beginning of another. Only now I was in love with a city, my blossoming affair with Lisbon infused with bittersweet emotions.

Portugal’s loss

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A couple of years later, I landed in Lisbon at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Everything was still half-dark, slow, still. Fado was playing on the taxi radio. And there it was again, that same wistfulness. I could recognize it so clearly as the car glided through the empty streets.

Only by then, I knew its name. I was feeling saudade, the famed Portuguese word that has no apt translation. You could describe it as a profound state of longing for someone or something you love, while knowing deep inside that he, she or it may never return. It’s the love that lingers after someone is gone. It’s a mix of emotions — happiness because you once had this person by your side, and sadness because you don’t anymore — and it triggers the senses in poignant ways.

Although the word first appeared even earlier, it’s often said that this yearning stems from the 15th-century age of discoveries. This was the golden era when Portuguese explorers set sail for far-flung seas, many disappearing in storms, others dying in battle or starting new lives elsewhere. Those left behind suffered from saudade, the nagging sense of absence, the wishful longing for what is gone. Saudade became a thread that runs through all aspects of Portuguese society, the foundation of its mentality, a tune that always plays subtly in the background. It has become a Portuguese way of life.

The former colonial powerhouse ruled a number of countries and imposed its culture on lands as far away as India (Goa was a Portuguese enclave), China (Macau belonged to Portugal until 1999), Brazil, Angola (and a string of ex-colonies across Africa) and Uruguay (Colonia del Sacramento in the country’s southwest is a replica of a small Portuguese town). After this period of power and wealth, Portugal was hit by the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, which lasted from 1926 to 1974. Hundreds of thousands of Portuguese citizens left the country during this time. There was that longing again, for the motherland, as emigrants set up new lives elsewhere.

Then the dictatorship fell and the former colonies got their independence, after nearly six centuries of Portuguese rule. Decades later, Portugal is one of the poorest members of the European Union. The country once had it all, then lost most of what it was proud of. No surprise, then, that saudade is omnipresent, shadowing every step.

An air of nostalgia

I’ve always loved wistfulness. I have a soft spot for nostalgia, the bittersweet remembrance of things past. Perhaps it was the saudade that seduced me to Lisbon in the first place. I love walking through the city’s half-empty streets on a quiet Sunday afternoon, past yellow funiculars and wobbly trams, the peeling walls filled with street art that makes you stop and think, the light reflecting off pastel-colored rooftops.

I love hearing fado from the bars of Alfama, the city’s oldest hilltop quarter. I love the laundry lines zigzagging across slim alleyways and staircases that seemingly lead to nowhere. I love the unexpected squares filled with palm trees and colorfully dressed African vendors. I love nibbling on pastéis de Belém custard tarts in the namesake district overlooking the Atlantic.

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I’d been hooked by saudade so strongly that a couple of years after that first visit in 2005, I returned to Lisbon to spend a summer month by the Tagus. I didn’t know that fate had something else in store. I met that something else outside a corner bar in the form of the man who’s now my husband.

While our relationship was still a transatlantic venture with an uncertain future, I decided to spend a few months in Lisbon. I left New York and found a pied-à-terre on the top floor of a ramshackle building in Bairro Alto, a quarter known for its languid days and raucous nights. From one side of my living room I could see São Jorge castle atop Alfama and, if I leaned out the window, the Tagus on the other side.

A lot happened during those four months. Most memorable was my fall down a flight of stairs, on my behind the entire way, which led to a fractured bone and painful bed rest for weeks afterward. It wasn’t the tumble per se, but at some point during those four months it dawned on me that, although I’ll always love Lisbon, it wasn’t going to make the cut as my primary home.

But the relationship continued. Hoji, my new boyfriend, eventually moved across the Atlantic, then became my husband. My love of Lisbon remained. And my obsession with saudade never faded. So, nine years after my first visit, I returned for a couple of days and set out to seek saudade. It felt like a mystery that I simply had to solve.

Seeking saudade

So there we were, on tram 28. The idea was that if only I looked at Lisbon with fresh eyes, I’d finally “get” saudade, put my finger on where it comes from and what it means.

In Santos, the waterside quarter with 19th-century warehouses and wrought-iron balconies, Hoji showed me the spot where he’d performed stand-up comedy for a while. I spotted A Barraca, a 1930s cinema refashioned into a cultural space, where I’d once gone to dance the tango.

We passed Estrela Hall, built in 1906 adjoining the British church and cemetery and converted in 1947 into a theater housing the Lisbon Players, an English-language amateur drama group. Hoji had performed here once, and I’d gone to the premiere with my broken sacrum, sporting a donut-shaped orthopedic pillow to sit on.

The tram zipped past Bairro Alto Hotel, where we were now staying, a boutique hideaway nestled between the chic neighborhood of Chiado and the boho Bairro Alto. Our second-floor room with plush touches overlooked Praça Camões, a square dedicated to the Portuguese prince of poetry.

Just down the hill was Cais do Sodré, the train station serving westbound suburban routes. For years, the riverside district around the train station had been a seedy spot with lackluster back streets haunted by sailors and ladies of the night. A couple of years ago, it turned into boho-chic central, playing rival to Bairro Alto up the hill.

The tourists on the tram looked bored and sleepy as the two of us rode up and down memory lane. The sun was bright. In Alfama, with its crooked streets and gabled houses, I recalled that first visit with my ex, when we’d seen the tail end of our relationship at Palácio Belmonte, an exclusive 10-suite hideaway in a 1449 palace atop ancient Roman and Moorish walls. Then we zipped past the walk-up apartment that Hoji and I rented for 10 days after our Cape Verde adventure last winter, when my mother came to visit, fulfilling a long-held dream of hers. “The city looks ghostly and sad, yet so pretty,” she kept saying, in different ways. To our right, we passed the Santa Luzia Belvedere, a lookout with a view toward the Alfama rooftops, the river, the dome of the National Pantheon, all framed by grapevine-draped lattices and tall palm trees.

As the tram moved, our stories — my own, my husband’s and those we shared — intersected. It felt as though the history of Lisbon was being woven through the experiences we’d once lived in the city.

In the formerly working-class Graça quarter, the tram rode past a pink building where we’d once spent Christmas with Hoji’s friends. Azulejos, the painted tin-glazed tiles that are the emblem of Portugal, reflected the sunlight beautifully. We hopped off at Largo Martim Moniz, a once-sketchy square where up-to-no-goods gathered and the two of us used to meet by Hotel Mundial, on the southern end. Now with Lisbon at its most multi-culti, the recently revamped square has gotten a new lease on life: It hosts pretty fountains, a fusion market with kiosks hawking global fare and Chinese groceries, Turkish kebab houses, Indian restaurants and African stores around the edges.

A mood of melancholy

fado.jpg

The next day, we rose to rain clouds that hung heavy over the hilltops. The weather suited my saudade-seeking mission. We strolled to the Fado Museum, housed in a pink building near the waterfront. Fado, which in Portuguese means fate, was born from the songs of saudade. The Portuguese sailors who crossed the globe in the past brought back tales of unknown cultures. Out of these tales rose songs that spoke of danger-filled voyages, homesickness, loneliness and the volatility of nature and fate. So where else if not in this museum would I find the key to saudade?

We found listening stations, an old gramophone, dusty records, video clips of fado performances, a 19th-century square piano and a vintage Portuguese guitar. A wall inscription read: “Fado is a poem that can be heard and seen.”

But nowhere could I find a mention of saudade. There was only one painting that spoke of the sentiment, a 1913 triptych called “O Marinheiro,” an oil canvas by Constantino Fernandes, depicting the life of a sailor. The central panel shows an arrival, or perhaps a goodbye, and it’s steeped in saudade.

Leaving the museum in an irritating drizzle, we walked back toward Bairro Alto in a mood of melancholy. A crowd of tourists was crammed inside Conserveira de Lisboa, an old-school canned foods store from the 1930s known for its colorful hand-wrapped cans of seafood based on the shop’s own recipes. We popped in to see the cobblestone interior and the wooden cash register and to grab some lime-marinated sardines and cod in olive oil and onions. Despite the tourist jam, there was still a whiff of saudade inside

Outside, the drizzle dragged on. The next day, it was time to move on. The saudade mystery lingered, and part of me felt that my pursuit had failed. I was no closer to “getting” saudade. I knew that the moment I left Lisbon, I’d feel that yearning again.

But then a new understanding emerged. Had I unraveled the puzzle, saudade would be gone. And the very point of saudade is that it stays on, lingering until the moment I’m back in Lisbon, and beyond.

Source: www.washingtonpost.com by Anja Mutic

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Amália, the Queen of Fado

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Amália, the Queen of Fado

 

Amália da Piedade Rodrigues, (July 23, 1920 – October 6, 1999), known as Amália Rodrigues (Portuguese pronunciation: was a Portuguese singer and actress. She was known as the Rainha do Fado ("Queen of Fado") and was most influential in popularizing the fado worldwide. She was one of the most important figures in the genre's development, and enjoyed a 50-year recording and stage career. Amália' performances and choice of repertoire pushed fado's boundaries and helped redefine it and reconfigure it for her and subsequent generations. In effect, Amália wrote the rulebook on what fado could be and on how a female fadista — or fado singer — should perform it, to the extent that she remains an unsurpassable model and an unending source of repertoire for all those who came afterwards. Amália enjoyed an extensive international career between the 1950s and the 1970s, although in an era where such efforts were not as easily quantified as today. She was the main inspiration to other well-known international fado and popular music artists such as Madredeus, Dulce Pontes, and Mariza.

Source: wikipedia.org

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